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Surprise!?? There are lots of kindergarteners in Portland


In today's Oregonian, the blaring headline: "Finally, a bumper crop of Portland kindergarteners ... The growing enrollment is welcome, albeit unexpected." In 2008, the Portland Public School district enrolled 3,950 kindergarteners, a 4% increase over 2007 (all metropolitan-area kindergartens grew but Gresham and Lake Oswego). There are all kinds of ways to utilize these numbers; kindergarten enrollment is used to forecast enrollment for all grades (that's obvious!), and it seems to be an indicator of population growth. Due to relatively infrequent census surveys, often localities like Portland are left in a year like '08 just not knowing where the people are.

Silly PPS. I know people here on urbanMamas and elsewhere in the Portland blogosphere have been commenting on the growing population for years. From packed prenatal yoga classes to waiting lists for preschool spots to crowding at Piccolo Park: we've been noticing that Portland is a great place to have babies, and lots of people are doing so.

If I was doing the forecasting, I would have already picked this year to be a growth year, and promised growth in kindergartens for the next 10 years to come. I think 2010 will be a particularly huge one! What do you see in your crystal ball (also known as your neighborhood coffee shop mid-morning)?


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As a regular member of the urbanmamas population, I have to comment - not so much on the topic of this post (urban growth, ostensibly), but the attitude. I am also a teacher in PPS, and am ready to leave this blog community due to the constant criticism and negative attitude toward our public schools. Not that I believe that they are by any means perfect - there are always improvements to be made. But the comments by regular posters on this blog are often short-sided and ignorant, not to mention specific to their individual cases but written about as broad generalizations. It's demeaning and divisive.

PPS has NO WAY of knowing how many kindergartners are going to be entering the system each year - and they only receive funding for staffing based on predicted numbers (which are not predicted by PPS itself). For as may mamas grumbled about early registrations last year or said that they would just wait till late summer to register, I'm not surprised that our classes are full.

Sorry for the rant, but it gets really old hearing just how we are always failing...

It seems PPS could have surmised that they'd eventually start seeing increased enrollments since the suburbs have all been growing like MAD for the last several years. I live in a west Portland neighborhood in Wash. Co., so I'm in Beaverton schools, and it's my understanding they have had increased enrollments for a long time now.

I'm with you, Meg. The negativity regarding schools, pools, hospitals, whatever the topic of the day--it seems like nothing lives up to the obscenely high standards expected in this community. Would love to see a rave in here once in a while instead of a snarky comment on how nothing lives up or how we're so much smarter than the schools, hospitals, etc. It is so easy to sit back and criticize from the comfort of the keyboard.

That being said, Meg and all the other teachers and school officials that have had to stomach the constant criticism, I commend you for your service in our schools. I can't imagine the challenge of serving so many young people every day and how exhausting it must be. Our communities rarely thank our teachers and schools who must accomodate and adapt to the very demanding list of needs and requirements in the most litigious country in the world. And why do teachers do it? Well, it's definitely not the money. I myself cannot wait for the day when I can walk my child to her PPS elementary school where I know she will be in good hands. And I will just pack a lunch if I don't like the food...sheesh.

Meg, I'm very sorry if I've offended you by this post. I don't think for a minute that the teachers or principals at our schools make the forecasts. it's probably one guy in the state administration that does it, and I wasn't being critical of that person; I just happen to see a big upswing in babies in our neighborhood, and think it's great. as the two posts I wrote most recently are singled out as being cranky, well then, I suppose I'm cranky. so sorry. I promise you I love my two sons' teachers, and they both know it.

I'm not going to quibble with anyone about the overall critical tone found anywhere online. (I suspect this site is probably among the most restrained online communities - check out the madness on babble sometime!)

But I will say this. I am under the impression that most school districts spend quite a bit of time forecasting enrollment, using data like building permits and subdivision planning, home sales, birth rates, demographic breakdowns by age (both how many young kids there are and how many people of childbearing age there are), local employment trends and so on. If they don't do it themselves, they usually employ some demographic expert to do it for them.

As I'm sure people know, it's not an empty exercise. If you want voters to give you money for more or better schools, if you think you might need to hire teachers, if you want to redraw boundaries for attendance, or, say, close some popular neighborhood schools, an accurate prediction is super useful. An inaccurate prediction - or a failure to even try to predict - is bad news, not just for the district, but the community it serves. In a democracy, that community has the right to ask hard questions, even when it gets on some peoples' last nerve.

Nobody has a magic crystal ball. Nobody is perfect. But asking why the district's previous projections didn't match the reality that the original poster saw in her every day life isn't snark. It's common sense. I suspect our dear school board is right now questioning district staff about why they missed the mark, and how they can avoid the same problem in the future.

The reason suburban school districts have been growing like mad is due to the fleeing of folks from Portland due to the reputation of Portland schools (not necessarily justified) and also due to the lower cost of housing in the suburbs. Friends in Vancouver say that the schools in her area are so overcrowded that they have two 'shifts', an early start and a late start. For years Portland schools have been shrinking in enrollment while the burbs have been growing.

What would be a good predictor? Hospital births? Daycare centers? ????

Honestly, when I saw that article my first reaction is that it's the *Oregonian* that's always the last to see the trend, not the schools. The paper could've connected its own dots a long time ago on this subject -- they've certainly done enough to appeal more to families w/ younger kids that it might've occurred to them to turn to the school enrollment issue a lot sooner.

And to throw in my two cents on the "negativity" issue: For realz, check out other parenting blogs on the internet if you think urbanmamas is harsh... It's scary out there.

I have been thinking for a while that this was going to turn around ... It is hard to know what is going on city-wide, but it has felt like a baby boom here in Southeast! This is a good thing. I would love to see the district be able to fill and keep their beautiful old school buildings.

i spent almost 5 years teaching kindergarten here in Portland; i quickly grew tired of juggling 30 children. i was exhausted from the constant assessment, learning new curriculum, and the pressure to say goodbye to play and hello to "seat work" & first grade academics. i WANT to be an advocate for PPS; i want to rally in their corner and be their loudest, cheering fan but after my personal experience, they need some serious h-e-l-p. i do believe the intention for success and greatness is there but the current focus & priorities need to shift and shift now. i do not mean to be a "downer"; i just tend to speak, respect, and act on reality.

Urbanmamas, Sarah ... I have never been offended by an original post and I've been reading since what I think was the beginning. I think the attitude is just real. I say we should all take it or leave it and quit reading between the lines. I would hate to see someone NOT post because they are spending too much time figuring out how to say it in a way that won't offend anyone. I would hope that the original posters would feel free to express themselves from the heart, at that moment. It's their blog, right? I know that I could just stop reading or ignore something that I don't agree with. However, I find the topics interesting and usually very pertinent to my life. Thanks for all you gals do, we live by the word of the UM around here. You go girls!

our crystal ball shows more and more families living in the central city. the latest 'hard' numbers we have are for 2006, when almost two kindergarten classes were born in the river district alone. that's on par with neighborhoods sunnyside, irvington and alameda.
scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to 115 pages of how PPS enrollment is predicted, and enrollment predictions through 2015.

I've only gotten a fifth of the way through, but that is some fascinating reading. Based on what I've read so far, I'm guessing if you went back and asked the guys who did this study, they'd say they spotted but perhaps couldn't peg the strength of a couple of trends - regional in-migration of people coming to portland neighborhoods right before they were family-starting age, and older women having children. Their portrayal of lower income, higher fertility families moving out of N and NE and higher income, lower fertility families moving in feels spooky - almost like reading your own medical chart.

I saw turnover in my neighborhood. Lots of couples moving in, having their first kid soon after. My son is 7 and above the curve that I can see walking around the neighborhood. Considering that Portland is known for its crazy large 20-30 something population size, it doesn't seem a huge surprise that kids have been making an appearance. I expect that the new swing of children and parents will bring changes...

PS I have been very pleasantly surprised about how PPS has been for my son-- much better then my personal experience in public schools growing up. I do feel kinda snarky about the food though :)

Brittney - what school does your son attend? Kindergarten has just been so hard this year with the huge numbers of kids starting school. I feel like my kids are swimming around in a sea of chaos and it's very disappointing. I'm sure it depends on the school, administration, support, etc.

I second the possibility of new children and parents bringing in changes for PPS. So much of a public school's success is parent involvement. Yes, the numbers might be higher, but numbers have been high in growing suburban districts that have done well in the past years. There's so much potential in Portland, it would be refreshing to see a city school district that reflected the ideals of its citizens, yes?

I have a kindergartener this year and share Barbara's feeling. The classroom is overcrowded, there seemed not to be enough planning to take into account the high numbers of neighborhood kids and those that transfer in.
I am very much for supporting neighborhood schools and spend a lot of time volunteering and lending energy to be present and make things better. (They have to get better, right?)

I've been volunteering like crazy, too. At our school, there is a huge amount of parental involvement but it just doesn't change certain facts - large classes sizes, very few "specials", and not enough support for teachers.

I just wonder how long it will take to get better because I don't want to sacrifice too many years of my child's education while we wait and see. Ugh.

I wonder how much of this has to do with the economy? Has anyone looked at whether PDX'ers are chosing to put their kids in PPS instead of private programs in the city? I know of one inner-PDX private school that suffered a huge drop in kindergarten enrollment for this school year.

The effects of the economy has had immediate impact on schools. We've had a sizable drop in enrollment at the high school where I teach in Beaverton. As a result, the school must _return_ several thousands of dollars asap from money that was budgeted at the beginning of the fiscal year in July.
Sadly, the biggest drop in enrollment was in our senior class (80 students didn't return). We suspect some have had to go to work to help out at home or to provide childcare for younger siblings.
To make matters worse, property values are going down which means property taxes will go down. And some folks won't be able to pay their property taxes. Public schools are largely funded by property taxes (upwards of 60% in Oregon). Furthermore, lottery ticket sales will in all likelihood go down cutting off another stream of funding. I am told this is just the beginning for schools (and the economy in general). Well done administration.

Meg says, "PPS has NO WAY of knowing how many kindergartners are going to be entering the system each year." Is that why the PPS "forecasts" in their school closure reports were so wrong?

The people fighting school closures saw this baby boom coming.

It is too bad PPS closed efficient bricks and mortar schools, instead of the dozens of substandard trailer classrooms in which hundreds of Portland’s children attend school.

Maybe people are negative on this site and others because PPS deserves the criticism and institutions like the Oregonian, PSF and Stand for Children are so Pollyannaish that contributors here feel a need for a broader view of the PPS truth.

Thanks, Steve. Lately I've been feeling so guilty over sending my child to an overcrowded classroom with a stressed out teacher who has no choice it seems but to teach to the test. We wanted to support our neighborhood school and community, but now I feel as though I'm throwing my kiddo under the bus in order to live up to my political ideals and notions. It's a horrible place to find oneself.

Our kindergarten classroom this year at Atkinson started with 33 kids and was chaos - for the kids, the parents, and even the amazing teacher. It was a rough start and took a month to sort out until they added another 1/2 K class. We have since had a great year, although Portland elementary class sizes are still way above the national average. Last week I asked our principal if he was planning on adding a full of 1/2 class for 1st grade; he said he had to wait until school starts in the Fall to make that plan. I couldn't believe it! I know predicting can be difficult, as others said above, but we already know what the 1st grade should look like for next year. I am very disappointed that my kids will probably go thru the same chaos again next year.

I believe this growth is due to Generation X being of child bearing age (and having children a little later than the baby boomers did). Also, after 9/11, a lot of people evaluated where they were in life and if they wanted children they might start trying. I followed the trend pretty closely- turning 40 this year with the bulk of Gen X, I had my 1st child in September 2002 at age 32, and another in 2004.

Can I just say few warm words ;) It's so nice here, good atmosphere, well done :)!.
I am from Cuba and learning to read in English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "Movies in hindi, they don seem to fit into the stereotype for lesbian characters."

THX :D, Waneta.

Hello everyone. When you make a mistake, don't look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.
I am from Egypt and , too, and now am writing in English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "Apr I read half a dozen of the lea books and, in my estimation, only keith ward effort has any integrity although it isn particularly.Britons gain plaudits at the ig nobel awards, an irreverent highlight of the academic calendar."

Thank 8) Reagan.

How are you. Think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.
I am from Haiti and also now am reading in English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: "Multiple tweaks are soon longer than mathematical large players."

With best wishes 8-), Derrick.

These are are wonderful comments on the issues that teachers face daily in their classrooms. Please bear these things in mind when you are next asked to vote for a PPS school-board member. It's not a political office--it's a service to our schools. Consider making more change and running!

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